Only the blue light of the energy-saver lamps and the battery-powered megaphone advertising Chinese-made synthetic underwear, tool sets and children’s trainers on a continuous loop are evidence of the present day.
Absolutely everything else doesn’t come from this century. The men with naked torsos who hammer red-hot iron to the rhythm of a second-hand. The old man with the bony face and curved dagger about his slim hips, selling twigs from the tree once used by the prophet to clean his teeth. The woman swathed in black except for her eyes, her back bowed as she balances a sack of rice on her head. Sanaa’s Old Town market is the backdrop for a costume film, a gigantic open-air museum in which people really do live.
“Where are you from?”, the raisin-seller brings me back to the present. “Almania OK”, he beams at me. His thumb indicates the yellowed title page of the government newspaper that he stuck on the wall four years ago. It still shows a smiling Schröder. No other western head of government has visited this market since the German Chancellor.